Frequently Asked Questions About the Plaza

  1. Why does the plaza need to be in the city and not the township?
  2. Why don't you put the plaza in Canada?
  3. Why does the plaza have to be so big?
  4. Since traffic has actually been declining in recent years, why do you need to expand the plaza?
  5. Will the local jurisdictions be compensated for tax base loss?
  6. Will the plaza be like a truck stop?
  7. Will there be extra pollution caused by increased traffic?
  8. How long before you want to expand again?
  9. Have you seen an increase in the amount of drugs and other illegal items seized?
  10. What happens if I don't sell??
  11. Will the plaza cut the city in half?
  12. Will the booths be staffed?
  13. What are the Canadians planning at their plaza?
  14. Where can I go to get more information?
  15. Can you move the administration building off site?
  16. Can employee parking be moved under the bridge?
  17. Can a parking structure be used for parking?
  18. Can you just build what you need for today, and then expand when you actually need the space?
  19. Will there be emergency access to the north end of the plaza?
  20. Why does the Duty Free store have to be on the plaza?

1. Why does the plaza need to be in the city and not the township?

Answer: National security concerns require that the inspection plaza be as close to the border as possible. The U.S. cannot allow dangerous goods and people to enter the country one and one-half miles from the border before being intercepted.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection's mission is to inspect all persons and merchandise at the border to prevent the illegal entrance of persons with criminal records, terrorist concerns and those who would add to the existing illegal population. CBP also must inspect commercial goods to prevent terrorist weapons from entering the U.S. and to protect the American economy from the importing of goods that are prohibited, restricted or violate copyright laws.

2. Why don't you put the plaza in Canada?

Answer: The differences between U.S. and Canadian laws regarding border inspections are insurmountable. Negotiations to put the U.S. plaza in Canada at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo ended in failure.

3. Why does the plaza have to be so big?

Answer: The main reasons for the size of the plaza are:

  • more primary inspection booths are needed
  • a larger area for secondary truck inspections is needed
  • an outbound inspection facility must be built

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) needs more primary inspection lanes to reduce backups and to separate passenger processing from commercial processing. Presently, the plaza is limited to 13 total lanes for all modes of traffic--car, truck and bus. Two of these are dedicated to participants of the NEXUS and FAST trusted traveler programs. This number of primary inspection booths is inadequate during peak usage, resulting in backups into Canada.

The CBP also needs enlarged secondary inspection facilities to examine not only trucks but cars. Since September 11, 2001, CBP's mission is to prevent terrorists or their goods from entering the U.S. CBP also inspects for contraband, including agricultural pests, counterfeit goods, unmanifested goods, narcotics, and weapons, including weapons of mass destruction.

The existing area for these inspections is so small that CBP cannot implement the technology and security processes used at other border crossings, much less accommodate new technology and processes in the future. CBP lacks the space for x-ray and other non-intrusive sensing equipment that would allow it to do quicker, more effective screening.

The current facility also does not allow CBP to inspect cargo and containers at the bridge. Trucks must be moved several miles for inspections. Adequate facilities at the border will reduce the risk of dangerous cargo moving through city streets.

Finally, CBP currently has no inspection facilities for outbound traffic. Outbound inspections are now required, so that CBP can intercept dangerous goods or people illegally trying to leave the U.S., so these inspections are done just past the toll booths where there is little room. The new facility would allow these inspections to take place outside the flow of traffic, reducing the potential for backups along the I-94/I-69 corridor.

4. Since traffic has actually been declining in recent years, why do you need to expand the plaza?

Answer: The present facility cannot handle existing traffic and does not accommodate CBP's secondary processing of either people or cargo. The plaza needs to efficiently handle current and projected traffic. The expanded plaza will be able to handle current and projected traffic out to the year 2030.

5. Will the local jurisdictions be compensated for tax base loss?

Answer: It is MDOT's policy not to provide compensation for loss of tax base or business. MDOT's funds come from taxpayers and are to be used for transportation purposes. Also, it is matter of fairness. When MDOT builds a facility that results in increased development and business, the communities that benefit do not share their increased tax base or profits with MDOT.

6. Will the plaza be like a truck stop?

Answer: No. Approximately 3000 trucks per day cross the bridge. The new facility, with onsite inspection capability and a larger secondary area, will allow CBP to use non-instrusive (x-ray) equipment, which reduces the number of trucks requiring physical examination and facilitates the release of cargo.

Trucks will only be allowed on the plaza long enough to be processed. Parked trucks are not allowed to idle, except for refrigerated trucks.

7. Will there be extra pollution caused by increased traffic?

Answer: It is anticipated that air quality will actually improve for two reasons. First, air emission rules for diesel trucks will be tightened in the near future, requiring trucks to be less polluting.

Second, more inspection booths and secondary inspection areas will mean less idling of trucks on the bridge. The larger secondary space will allow CBP to use non-intrusive technology to process trucks more quickly, reducing the number of waiting trucks. The onsite examination facility will reduce the risk of undetected hazardous goods moving through the local streets to an examination facility.

8. How long before you want to expand again?

Answer: The proposed plaza should satisfy the border needs for the foreseeable future (30 years or more).  

9. Have you seen an increase in the amount of drugs and other illegal items seized?

Answer: Drug seizures have recently declined. However, CBP must remain vigilant in stopping this illegal activity.

10. What happens if I don't sell?

Answer: Property owners unwilling to sell to the state will be taken to court through the state's power of eminent domain. However, there is good reason to sell. Due to recent changes in the State of Michigan constitution, home owners will be offered 125% of their home's fair market value.

11. Will the plaza cut the city in half?

Answer: Not anymore than it already does. The plaza currently extends from 10th Street to the connector and from I-69/I-94 to Pine Grove. The east-west distance will remain the same, and the number of north-south roads will remain the same.

12. Will the booths be staffed?

Answer: Booths are currently fully staffed at peak periods 90% of the time (and more). CBP is committed to adequately staffing booths in order to efficiently process border traffic.

13. What are the Canadians planning at their plaza?

Answer: The Canadians are currently in the process of significantly expanding both their plaza and westbound 402.

14. Where can I go to get more information?

Answer: Several locations are available for additional information. Visit this project Web site (www.michigan.gov/bluewaterbridgeproject), call the toll-free hotline 800-955-3515, or visit with study team members every first and third Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at the MDOT Port Huron Transportation Service Center located at 2127 11th Avenue, Port Huron.

15. Can you move the administration building off site?

Answer: No. It is essential from both an operational and security standpoint that all Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel are stationed on site. During a security emergency at the plaza, all personnel must be available to respond immediately.< /p>

16. Can employee parking be moved under the bridge?

Answer: No. If there is a security emergency at the plaza and personnel are called to the site, they must be able to quickly access the facility. Also, for the safety of CBP personnel, their vehicles need to be in a secure location while they are on duty.

17. Can a parking structure be used for parking?

Answer: A nonessential structure such as this takes away flexibility at the plaza site. This flexibility is necessary to make room for evolving technology and procedures that will be implemented in the future. Furthermore, the structure may inhibit sight lines which are essential to the safe and secure operation of the plaza. The cost of providing a structure for 40 employee vehicles is prohibitive and would not substantially shrink the footprint of the plaza.

18. Can you just build what you need for today, and then expand when you actually need the space?

Answer: Because of the time needed for developing projects of this magnitude, this solution is not practical. New technologies and procedures develop very quickly in the face of new threats. CBP must be able to respond quickly in order to protect U.S. citizens and their interests. Space within the plaza is also needed for maintaining the operation of the border while the plaza is constructed.

19. Will there be emergency access to the north end of the plaza?

Answer: Yes. Emergency access will be provided to the north end of the plaza in the vicinity of Twelfth Street. The details of this access will be worked out during the design phase of the project.

20. Why does the Duty Free store have to be on the plaza?

Answer: The Duty Free store must be located where patrons must continue on to Canada. The location shown on the proposed plaza layout is believed to be the only practical location. Also, while Duty Free shopping is a service, it is also a significant income generator that will help fund the project and future maintenance of the facility.